Movie review

`Together' is odd but sweet

November 02, 2001|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Together , which opens today at the Charles, is a friendly movie, as scruffy and cozy as a woolen watch cap. It's about a Swedish commune of the same name that sustains itself in the mid-'70s by moving to the social-cultural center.

Director Lukas Moodysson reserves his most astringent satire for zealots like the couple who brand Pippi Longstocking a capitalist. But they leave anyway for a commune called Mother Earth.

At the core of the group are people who are in it for the long haul. They include a frustrated homosexual with the hots for a recently divorced heterosexual; the divorced man's wife, who is convinced that she's a lesbian; and the ex-couple's kids, including a boy named Tet, after the Offensive. They may not celebrate Christmas, but they do have a Santa Claus: a shambling redhead named Goran (Gustaf Hammersten) who tries to bridge all gaps and mediate all points of view. When his voluptuous lover sleeps with the novice ideologue and describes to Goran how he gave her the first orgasm of her life, Goran manages to downplay his surprise -- he thought he'd given her one, too. He's the commune's equivalent of the middle or third child.

Goran is a lovable character in the perfect setting; perhaps such a gentle figure could anchor a film only when surrounded by dynamic archetypes. And his few aggressive acts temporarily ignite the movie, whether he's moving his sister -- a battered wife with two kids -- into the commune, buying the kids a TV or finally giving his lover what-for.

Moodysson sensitively draws the reactions of the new kids to the communards; they see through the adults' radical poses, yet come to accept their goodhearted egalitarianism. There's one daring subplot, in which Goran's out-of-control lover comes on to a 14-year-old boy, and there are a few inspired set pieces, like the kids playing fascist torturers and leftist victims instead of cowboys and Indians.

Most of the political parody, however, is rudimentary, and the relationships play out predictably. By the end, the commune becomes a lonely-hearts club for people of all sorts. It's a sweet idea, but one that only a filmmaker who was middle-of-the-road himself would flesh out so glibly. The most piquant comedy-drama revolves around the question posed by the Mother Earth defectors: Will Goran ever break in two?

This is never satisfactorily explored. He may throw out his girlfriend, but that just means he's no free lover. He disappears while his sister gets her marriage back on track, and re-appears for a bout of the commune's non-competitive soccer. It goes down too easily, like Swedish chicken soup for the soul.


Starring Gustaf Hammersten

Directed by Lukas Moodysson

Rated R (sex, nudity, adult language)

Released by IFC

Running time 104 minutes

Sun score ** 1/2

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